The Instigator
FourTrouble
Pro (for)
Winning
23 Points
The Contender
xxx200
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

Religion and State

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
FourTrouble
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/19/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,293 times Debate No: 21270
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (14)
Votes (5)

 

FourTrouble

Pro

Many thanks in advance to whoever accepts this debate. I look forward to what I hope will be an educational exchange.

The Resolution

This debate will be about the theoretical questions and interpretive issues at stake in the First Amendment's two Religion Clauses, which read: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

Interpreted literally, the Establishment Clause prohibits not only government favoritism of religion, but also government actions "respecting" an establishment of religion, which include any indirect effort to aid or endorse religion. The Free Exercise Clause also has strict separationist overtones, suggesting that Congress may pass literally NO law regarding religion. Hence, interpreted literally, these two clauses seem to achieve Thomas Jefferson's stated goal of building a "wall of separation" between church and state.

And yet, the Supreme Court has never actually applied a strict separationist approach to their decisions. Instead, the Court has inconsistently wavered between a moderately separationist interpretation and a more accomodationist interpretation that goes beyond the text to define the proper relationship between religious practice and civil authority.

In this debate, I offer my opponent a choice between arguing for the separationist or the accomodationist interpretation of the First Amendment. I will argue the other side. Whichever side we argue, we nonetheless take as our common ground the First Amendment. No further changes to the Constitution are to be suggested, as the debate is not about what the Constitution should mean but about what the Constitution does mean.

Terms of the Debate

1) The first round will be for acceptance: my opponent will choose which interpretation they will debate, and if he/she wishes, can make an opening statement or post any relevant questions about their position.

2) The Burden of Proof will be shared.

3) Important definitions (for example, of "religion") are not settled, and will be subject to debate if my opponent or I so choose.

4) Votes will be given only for arguments, please.
xxx200

Con

thanks, i accept the challenge. i will debate for separationinst side. i would like to separate religion from state.

please post your opening argument quickly.
Debate Round No. 1
FourTrouble

Pro

Introduction

It is often forgotten that religious liberty was the central value and purpose of the Religion Clauses. The "separation of church and state" is a phrase that does not appear in the First Amendment or in the debates surrounding its adoption. The point of the Religion Clauses is clearly to protect religious liberty, to ensure that government does not interfere with a person's chosen religious belief.

The problem here is quite simple. Strict neutrality or separationism cannot account for the purpose of protecting freedom of choice and religious liberty, so I argue that there are in fact occasions in which the Free Exercise Clause requires that religious exercise be given precedence over civil law. Let me make clear, however, that I am not saying all claims for free exercise are valid, but rather, that there are some valid claims for exemption from civil law.

So, while I agree the government cannot establish a national religion, what I argue is that we cannot reject the possibility that religion may be true. Think about that: religious claims are possibly true. And if true, religious claims are obviously of a higher order than anything in secular institutions.

Without doubt, if religious claims are true, they must be prior to and of greater dignity than the claims of the state; if there is a God, His authority necessarily transcends the authority of nations. Some citizens, otherwise good and law-abiding citizens, will and do view religious claims as higher authority than civil law. That is a descriptive fact about reality. So then, it seems preferable to accommodate them rather than to provoke disobedience. The idea behind accommodationism is simply the pragmatic importance of preserving peace and order.


Intent of First Amendment

Historical accommodations of religion in the years leading up to the framing of the First Amendment were frequent and well known, and no one took the position that they constituted an establishment of religion. The Continental Congress, for example, exempted members of the peace churches from military conscription, and Madison even proposed this policy be enshrined in the Bill of Rights. [1]

Furthermore, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which was the principal precursor to the First Amendment, begins: "that Religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence." Madison comments, "and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate." [2]

It is clear, then, that accommodation is perfectly consistent with the intent of the Religion Clauses.

Some problems with strict separationism

1) Requiring the legislature to have a plausible secular purpose for every law or policy would require the courts to second-guess the legislature's reasoning for all legislation. Judges would be left as supreme arbiters of controversial beliefs, determining what is and is not religious reasoning and what is and is not secular reasoning. Allowing religious reasoning, which in and of itself can be just as reasonable as secular reasoning, solves this problem.

2) Prohibiting the legal enforcement of religious morality privileges secular belief relative to religious faith. Moral judgments that stem from religious faith, and that cannot stand independent of religious faith, are nonetheless moral judgments, and prohibiting such moral judgments from entering government policies simply favors an ideology of secular rationality (based on science) that is no more objective than religious faith when it comes to morality. It makes sense, then, that government be allowed to base policies on purely religiously based moral judgment, even if hose judgments cannot be validated by secular reasoning.

3) Excluding religious values from policy consideration completely excludes the basic values of an overwhelming number of Americans. A recent survey shows that over 90% of Americans believe in God and think the Judeo-Christian tradition offers a valid morality for personal and public life. [3] By opposing secularism to the overwhelming majority, the Court in effect institutes its own religion, the religion of secularism, and at that, it is not even the religion of the majority.

Conclusion

The intent of the First Amendment was to protect religious liberty. Hence, prohibiting government from adopting religiously based policies marginalizes and discriminates against the free exercise of religion. This is the problem with strict neutrality or strict separationism: rather than protect religious liberty, it effectively enshrines secularism as the national faith, and relentlessly excludes all religious reasoning and religious grounds for morality. Finally, we see that religion, for the overwhelming majority of Americans, provides the deeper moral values that are meant to inform public policy. We conclude, then, that religious reasoning has a place (not always, but sometimes) in the public square, and that religiously based legislation is allowable as a way to enforce religious morality through law. We also conclude that free exercise makes room for exemption from civil law, in a case by case basis, for the sake of protecting religious liberty.

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2]http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu...
[3]http://thenewamerican.com...;
xxx200

Con

approach of interpretation of first amendment:

1] separatist:"prohibits the establishment of a national religion by Congress"

2] accomodation:"prohibits the preference by the U.S. government of one religion over another"
http://en.wikipedia.org...

now lets study these 2 approaches: you will find these 2 approachs coming one after another. they are not 2 separate approach. there is a link between them.i am showing you how:

first accomodation comes and after that separation comes. lets consider this:

1] accomodation:the preference by the U.S. government of one religion over another.

2] separatist : the establishment of a national religion by Congress.

if u.s. govt. prefer one religion over another, only then govt. can automatically,unofficially establish a national religion. for example: suppose there are 2 religions: christianity and islam. if govt. prefer christianity over islam only then the govt. can automatically,unofficially establish a national religion called christianity.

on the other hand if govt. don't prefer christianity over islam, govt cannot establish a national religion.

in fact in order to establish a national religion, govt. must prefer one religion over the other.

so these 2 approaches have cause-effect relationship. they are not contradictory to each other.

and since they are not contradictory to each other, they cannot be subject to debate.
Debate Round No. 2
FourTrouble

Pro

Pro argues that the accommodationist and separationist interpretation of the Religion Clauses are compatible with each other, and therefore, not subject to debate. Truth is, Pro's argument stems from a huge effort in misunderstanding or misrepresenting what these two interpretations actually say.

The separationist interpretation of the First Amendment argues for a complete separation between church and state. In effect, this means absolutely no law regarding religion. The idea is that every single law must have a plausible secular purpose.

The accommodationist interpretaion of the First Amendment argues that it is preferable to accommodate religion (not ignore it) because of the possibility that religious claims are true, and if they are true, are clearly of higher authority than civil law.

The difference is that the accommodationist interpretation allows, on a case by case basis, religion exemption from civil law, whereas the separationist interpretation does not allow exemption from civil law. The separationist argues that the law must be completely separate from religion, and this means that it cannot favor a religion by allowing a religion exemption from the law. Accommodationists argue against this point, suggesting that it is preferable to allow exemption for the purpose of preserving religious liberty.

The distinction in many ways comes from the tension between the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause. Establishment jurisprudence demands that the government not make any law regarding religion, but the Free Excercise Clause undercuts this by requiring that government allow citizens to practice their religion.

I already presented my argument for the accommodationist interpretation. Con completely disregards and drops my arguments, and provides a very problematic argumen in support of separationism.

Note that Con's argument is arguing that the two interpretations are equivalent. This means that Con wants a tie, as the BoP is shared. Thus, Con's argumentative strategy implies an inferior position (desire to tie instead of win), but let's look past that to see why Con's equivalence argument fails.

The accommodationist defintion Con provides is that the government cannot prefer one religion over another, but that it can make laws regarding religions. That is the key difference, as the separationist definition Con provides explicitly denies government the right to make laws regarding religion. That difference leads, as I have explained, to the case where accommodationists exempt religion from civil law (without prefering that religion over another), whereas the separationist would never allow religious exemption from the state's laws.

I admit, I'm somewhat disappointed by Con's arguments. I hope he picks it up in the next round, and we can really get into the philosophical questions at stake here.


xxx200

Con

"The accommodationist interpretaion of the First Amendment argues that it is preferable to accommodate religion (not ignore it) because of the possibility that religious claims are true, and if they are true, are clearly of higher authority than civil law. "


since there is no possibility that religious claims are true, the accomodation interpretation will have no use. therefore separationist interpretation is the right interpretaton.
Debate Round No. 3
FourTrouble

Pro

Con drops all my arguments. A thoroughly disappointing debate, I think it's obvious who the vote should go to. That said, let me just refute Con's arguments, for the sake of thoroughness.

Con argues "there is no possibility that religious claims are true," but provides no support whatsoever. That is an extraordinary claim, and the fact that so many people believe religious claims are true suggests that stating there is no possibility that religious claims are true would require extraordinary proof, which Con has not provided.

But let's be generous to Con, and grant for the the sake of argument that no religious claims are true. The point is still irrelevant to an interpretation of the First Amendment. We could turn the argument, and say, since no religious claims are true, the state needs no protection from religion, so why even have Religion Clauses. Why even interpret them? They're irrelevant. That's nonsensical. Whether religious claims are true or not, the First Amendment is about protecting religious liberty. And that means that there will be cases in which citizens' religious practices conflict with the state's civil laws. How do we deal with that situation? Accommodation, on a case by case basis. Con provides no arguments against that.

Vote Pro. Gonna propose this debate again, and hope it goes differently.
xxx200

Con

pro's first argument: con did not provide any evidence that religious claims are not true.

i don't know what to say. in this century of scientific progress somebody can ask proof that religious claims are not true. i have never heard at least one religious claim that scientifically proved right.

some claims are disproved by science totally, like the claim that

1] world is less than 10,000 years old,

2] god created this world,

3] if you disobey god, you will go to hell.etc.

some religious claim are disproved by common sense. claims like:

1] god is kind, merciful

2] god loves you

3] god will protect you.etc.

so i think pro will get evidence that religious claims are not true.

pro's second argument: if religious claim or religion is wrong why protec them? why even have a religion clause?

well although neither science nor common sense prove religion right, most people cannot trust either science or common sense [atheist/scientists excluded]. they are emotional and often they feel insecure. that's why they stick to these bogus claims. they find peace by believing that they are true. for them there is religion and religion clause.

since most people believe that religion is true does not make religion true. since religion is not true, there is no need of accomodation interpretation from logical point of view.

but... oh yes, you can say for those timid people, accomodation clause might solace them.
Debate Round No. 4
14 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by 16kadams 5 years ago
16kadams
Hes noob
Posted by FourTrouble 5 years ago
FourTrouble
Am I getting trolled or something? I was hoping for a serious debate...
Posted by FourTrouble 5 years ago
FourTrouble
In practice, I agree with you, state religion doesn't mean much when its framed within a secular democracy. I think the issue is more theoretical, a matter of how we justify legislation (through religious or secular reasoning). I didn't pick a side for this debate because honestly, the arguments for all the sides make sense to me.
Posted by RoyLatham 5 years ago
RoyLatham
Giving states the right to establish religion does not mean that the founders, like Jefferson, favored the right be exercised to establish religion. It means the right was retained for the states to determine. In practice, having a state religion doesn't mean much. The U.K. and Japan still have state religions, without much consequence.
Posted by FourTrouble 5 years ago
FourTrouble
You're probably talking about an accommodationist position...
Posted by Zealous1 5 years ago
Zealous1
I would argue that the government is allowed to make Equal Protection based religion laws, but they can't specify one religion as the official religion, of course.
Posted by FourTrouble 5 years ago
FourTrouble
what position would you argue for?
Posted by Zealous1 5 years ago
Zealous1
Hmmmm.... I like the topic, except I would argue for neither of these positions. It's an important balance.
Posted by Swagner134 5 years ago
Swagner134
Half tempted to debate it as a serperationist.
Posted by FourTrouble 5 years ago
FourTrouble
True, some states discriminated against particular religious groups for almost half a century, since the 1st amendment did not apply to the states until the 14th Amendment. But that doesn't mean the founders intended to give states that right, as the classic Virginia case makes explicit, where Jefferson and Madison led the fight against the tax levy in support of the established church.
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by LlamaMan 4 years ago
LlamaMan
FourTroublexxx200Tied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Good debate but pro won
Vote Placed by girg 5 years ago
girg
FourTroublexxx200Tied
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Total points awarded:70 
Reasons for voting decision: Con was somewhat unprofessional in his arguments and looked like he typed it with one hand, most containing very little logic. I agree with Pro, this was slightly disappointing...
Vote Placed by imabench 5 years ago
imabench
FourTroublexxx200Tied
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Con really alienated voters with round 4....
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 5 years ago
RoyLatham
FourTroublexxx200Tied
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: This debate was hard to follow -- just propose a clear resolution. Con didn't provide a reasonable definition of "accommodation" and left Pro's argument unanswered. Poor S
Vote Placed by 16kadams 5 years ago
16kadams
FourTroublexxx200Tied
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Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: 1. Con dropped most arguments 2. Pro refuted all of cons 3. Pros main argument stood 4. 1st amendment = good argument, con had a poor counter. 5. Has more and better sources Pro wins!